Vodafone marketing in a muddle again as Clare Sheikh is out, Barbara Haase in

Giant UK mobile company Vodafone has fallen out with brand director Clare Sheikh (who says she’s consulting her lawyers) and replaced her with Barbara Haase from German consultancy Brand Plantation. Haase is a former brand director of BMW-owned Mini and was brand boss at Vodafone Germany between 2003 and 2008.

Vodafone CCO Morten Lundal, to whom Vodafone’s marketers report, says: “Barbara is a highly accomplished brand and marketing professional, and I’m delighted to welcome her back to Vodafone.”

So far so normal then, Vodafone has had a succession of brand bosses, ad veteran David Wheldon holding the job until he was displaced by Sheikh about a year ago.

Sheikh (left) gets about a bit herself. According to her Linkedin entry she read English at Cambridge (good start then), worked for Boston Consulting for four years then did seven at the Prudential, two at Centrica, five at AA, just the one at ITV, four at RSA (insurance) and then Vodafone. What does this show? Some companies you get on with, others you don’t. In Sheikh’s case it seems as though the financial sector is her bag. She also enjoys boxing in her spare time (at least we assume it’s in her spare time).

And what does all this say about Vodafone? We’re remarked before that Vodafone is bloody awful at advertising (for all its huge success), failing to extract a decent campaign from either JWT or Bartle Bogle Hegarty (quite a feat). With Sheikh as brand director it moved its business to WPP, conducting a pitch in which it cherry-picked its WPP agency of choice.

This turned out to be RKCR/Y&R which produced a campaign featuring an annoying little gremlin, ‘Yoda,’ from Star Wars. The point being, presumably, that Vodafone is user-friendly unlike annoying little gremlins/Vodafone’s competitors.

I don’t like this very much either but then I’m wholly resistant to anything Star Wars. It beats me why agencies think it still has resonance with UK buyers.

Has the campaign failed to achieve what Sheikh and Vodafone hoped it would? That would seem to be an obvious reason for their falling out. Sheikh implies it’s more deep-rooted than that.

Or is Vodafone just one of those companies where marketers feels they’re up against a brick wall, that the company’s happy with what it is and therefore isn’t that interested in moving things on? British Airways has often seemed like that under Willie Walsh although it did produce the ‘To Fly To Serve’ campaign and then some decent Olympics stuff from BBH after years of virtually no ads.

But new broom Haase presumably knows what she’s letting herself in for.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

One comment

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    The Star Wars campaign has nothing to do with Claire. It is a Vodafone UK campaign and not part of her global remit.
    Also, the WPP deal was done prior to her joining – she moved global from Santos to RKYR
    Some sloppy research